Banned Book Week raises awareness on challenged books, ideas and expression

Banned Book Week is back and will be celebrated Sept. 24 through Sept. 30. This is an annual awareness campaign, sponsored by the American Library Association and American Booksellers Association to celebrate the freedom to read.

During Banned Book Week, there will be multiple events throughout Anchorage with libraries hosting live readings, trivia, spoken word and displays of banned books.

“Banned Book Week is an annual event where libraries celebrate the freedom to read by focusing on the books that are challenged every year in libraries and schools through the United States,” Mike Robinson, head of the systems department at the Consortium Library and former chair of the Alaska Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee, said. “People ask that books be removed from library collections for a wide variety of reasons; sex, dirty words, murder, suicide, drug use, cultural appropriation, political correctness, hate speech… you name it.”

To start off Banned Book Week, the Anchorage Public Library will be hosting Censored Story Time Sept. 25 to Sept. 30 from 4 – 5 p.m. at the ZJ Loussac Public Library. Each day, there will be a different banned book story being read, it is advised that there may be strong language and imagery not suitable for children.

“There are a lot of books out there, that you wouldn’t think anyone could object to, like ‘Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak, or ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?’ by Bill Martin Jr,” Stacia McGourty, adult services coordinator, said.

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The UAA Campus Bookstore will be holding two events during Banned Book Week.

Yuhua Cui and Yuan Tian from the UAA Confucius Institute will be discussing the financial management with cellphones in China on online banking, the WeChat Purse, online purchases and transportation orders on Sept. 26 from 5 – 7 p.m. in the UAA Campus Bookstore. The next day, Sept. 27, from 5 – 7 p.m. artist Thomas Chung will be presenting “Art and Everything Else.” During this event he will be speaking about art, expression and American life.

Around campus, there will be banned book displays in the UAA Campus Bookstore and the Consortium Library.

“Here at the Consortium Library we will have a banned books display and freebies students can pick up like bookmarks and buttons during the week. There will also be a shredded book contest, a jar with shredded pages from a book you have to identify, and students can take to enter a drawing for bigger prizes.” Robinson said.

Some view Banned Book Week as a way to promote free expression in numerous forms.

“I think we do not fully appreciate the uniqueness of each person and our abilities to share our unique lives with others, So freedom of expression is important to me,” Rachel Epstein, Special Events Coordinator at the UAA Campus Bookstore, said. “Banned Book Week honors creative expression and reminds each of us how precious our freedom is.”

On Sept. 28 from 7 – 9 p.m., the Consortium Library is linking up with the Anchorage Public Library, American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska and Geeks Who Drink for the fourth annual Banned Books Pub Quiz at the 49th State Brewing Company. The trivia questions will be related to banned books, censorship and other intellectual freedom issues. The quiz will not be censored and is expecting explicit language and imagery in celebration of intellectual freedoms. There will be prizes for first, second, third, not last and best team name.

To end the week, the Anchorage Public Library is hosting a showing of “Lolita” on Sept. 30 at 2 p.m. in the Wilda Marston Theater at the Loussac Library, with a panel discussion taking place afterwards.

“‘Lolita’ is a book that engenders a lot of feelings and opinions.” McGourty said. The subject matter has always been incredibly controversial, and rather than becoming less so as time marches on, I think it’s become more controversial.”

Although Banned Book Week celebrates the freedom to read, it also highlights other issues surrounding freedoms.

“Banned Book Week is the library and publishing world’s week to draw attention to censorship and issues of intellectual freedom. While the focus has been on books, I think it’s really important that we remember that libraries are more about ideas and information,” McGourty said.

Banned Book Week will be filled with activities around town relating to banned books, censorship, expression and intellectual freedom.